Two Nelson cyclists qualified to represent Canada at the UCI World Cycling Tour in South Africa later this month.
Jim Wheeler, 45, and Shelly Adams, 54, were each offered a spot in the race after they finished in the top 25 per cent in their age categories at the Granfondo Axel Merckx in Penticton. Wheeler was No. 7 among men 40-45, and Adams was No. 10 for women’s 50-55, in the 160 kilometre race with 2,500 participants.
Of the two, only Adams is seriously considering making the trip to South Africa. Wheeler said he hasn’t trained enough to justify the expense of overseas travel.
“If I’d kept up with my training this year, I could have finished in the top 20 overall [at Grandfondo],” said Wheeler, who was 45th to cross the finish line. “The guys ahead of me had been racing in events all year, for me it was my only timed event.”
But he’s hoping next year he’ll be able to race more regularly and qualify again.
Adams, on the other hand, has been in four races this year and has three more scheduled. She started her training early this year, travelling to Italy to ride during the winter, and thinks going to worlds would be a great experience.
“It’s fun to see on the entry list your name and ‘Canada’ beside it,” Adams said. “I’m very tempted to go. I wouldn’t be racing for Nelson or BC, but for the whole country. It’s a big opportunity.”
Adams didn’t realize the Penticton Granfondo was the only UCI qualifying race — the only one in the North America. She went into it looking for a new personal best and determined to finish in the top 10 in her age group.
“I’d been coming in 15th, 14th, 11th, but never in the top 10 [in other Granfondo events],” said Adams, who was 440th to finish. “I worked really hard on training, and was really focused in the ride. I basically just kept a consistent pace the entire day, ate properly, hydrated and was somehow able to get in the top 10.”
Her husband Mike cycled along with her for support, as he often does in races. The two finished together with a time of 5:26, over an hour behind Wheeler who clocked 4:19.
Wheeler said he leapfrogged into the front group of riders during a climb early in the race and stuck with them for 140 km. It wasn’t until the final climb that he fell behind, but from there it was downhill to the finish line.
“It’s a great ride,” Wheeler said of the Granfondo. “It’s the closest thing we get in Canada to riding a stage in the Tour de France, in terms of the energy, the amount of riders and the distance.”
Wheeler and Adams train together in Nelson, with the help of Bob Boucher who cycled in the 1968 olympics. They can often be seen riding along the highways in their training rides.
Wheeler got hooked on cycling races when he was 20 and entered many high level events in his first five years of racing. He took a long break from competition when his children were born, but got back into it six years ago. He’s been racing in Grandfond since the inaugural Canadian race in 2010.
Adams started cycling at age 30 when a knee injury forced her to seek an alternative to running. She was drawn to the bike because her husband was already an avid cyclists, and the two of them have enjoyed riding together ever since. The author of the Whitewater cookbook series, Adams says she needs to keep up on her cardio workouts so she won’t feel guilty eating as much as she likes.
Four other Nelsonites also completed the Penticton Granfondo. Lex Baas was 12th for men 60-64 at 5:15. David Claussen clocked 5:21, Marcello Garrisi 6:00 and Bruce Harrison 7:21. The overall average time for the course was 6:05.